For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to see Ireland. Maybe it was because both sides of my family came from Ireland, I’m Irish through and through without actually living there. Or it could be because of the rich and interesting history/mythology the country has to offer. So when my mum surprised me with a holiday in Dublin and then in Belfast, I was over the moon.
Arriving at the airport was so surreal, I had only been on a plane once in my life before when I was 3 so being in the environment now that I was 20 was incredibly special to me. The actual flight only lasted 30 minutes, for a first flight experience, it was probably the best especially for an anxious person like me.
The moment we landed in Dublin, I was ready to go and explore the beautiful city. The hotel we were staying in was called ‘Cassidy’s Hotel’, it’s right in the middle of the city and super close to supermarkets, pubs, restaurants, shops and even has some cinemas in the area. The hotel was great for a place to sleep and rest in the middle of all the sightseeing and exploring I was planning on doing. Dublin has so much to give, and the first thing I wanted to see was the National History Museum, for a history nerd like me it was the perfect place to start the holiday with. I’ve been to a few museums in my life, and honestly, this was one of the best ones I’ve seen. It was 4 floors absolutely full of exhibits, the big one though has to be the giant Irish deer that you see the moment you walk into the museum, it’s amazing to know that creatures like that walked the earth many years ago. They also have an impressive collection of butterflies and moths, I actually never knew there were that many species, I suppose that’s the good thing about museums. No matter how many times you visit one and no matter how much you think you know, you always learn something new!
The day before my birthday we decided to venture outside the city 30 minutes away to a little seaside town called Howth. Unfortunately, not many places where open but we made do with what we had. Howth is right next to the coast so when we wandered near the docks we saw a family of seals looking for their next meals from the fishermen. I’ve seen plenty of seals whenever I’ve visited zoos before so to see them in their natural habitat during what they’re supposed to do was an amazing experience and thankfully I took loads of pictures so I can always look back on it. We walked around the harbour for a bit, trying to get a feel for the town and falling in love with it more every step we took. It’s just a sweet little town hidden away from all the hustle and bustle of city living and I can really see the appeal of living in such a place. Before we left we found a pub tucked away under the train station, ‘The Bloody Steam’ it’s called and honestly I love a good pub name. Inside of the pub was an actual fire and after spending the day out by the coast in November weather, it was like walking in a nice toasty oven. The pub’s food was amazing to say the least and I highly recommend it if you’re ever visiting Howth and love seafood. Howth is definitely a place I’d like to visit again, in the summer when it’s nicer weather and more going on.
If you’re in any city or town with some history behind it then you’ll probably see a few sightseeing buses throughout your stay. I highly recommend buying a ticket and getting on one, not only do they tell you some facts and history about the place but they take you on a nice journey past most if not every place of significance, Dublin is no different. The trip can take up some time, so make sure you make space for it in your day but the good thing about using the buses is that you can get off at the many stops it has and get back on a different sightseeing bus. Also, if you’re staying in the city for a few days, you can do what we did. We sat through the whole bus journey and noted down which places we’d like to see properly. It really helped us make a definite list instead of just a few places we needed to look into more before deciding whether or not to go. One of the places we decided to visit was the Kilmainham Gaol (jail) Museum. I can not recommend this place enough, I walked in knowing nothing about Ireland’s history and I ended up learning so much and getting a genuine interest in the subject. I won’t give much away about the experience but what happens is a guide walks you around the Gaol and talks about the history of it and who resided there. They’ll show you the many cells (some you can actually go in), the area where prisoners were shot and hanged, and the chapel where one prisoner named Joseph Plunkett was married shortly before he was executed all the while talking about everything and anything you need to know about the Gaol. The guides are so passionate about the Gaol and you can tell they are just as interested as you are. I highly recommend buying a ticket and spending as much time as you can looking throughout the museum part of the Gaol as well as it houses actual belongings of some of the rebellions who were kept in the prison.
Now, if you know anything about Dublin you know that the Guinness Factory is there. If you didn’t know, now you do! Even if you don’t like Guinness or you don’t even drink, I think it’s still a great idea going as it’s really interesting finding out what makes a Guinness and everything that goes into it. I really enjoyed my time walking around the many different floors and seeing all the information it had to offer, I’m going to be honest and say it was gorgeous inside, I’m a big lover of neon lights and it really made the building look amazing. The whole experience was interesting and tells a tale of the company’s start and at the end, you can have a free pint of Guinness in their Gravity Bar which overlooks the whole city. I would say you should go to that first as the later it gets, the less of Dublin you can see. However, it can look really pretty at night which is when I went there and even I, a non-drinker was thinking about trying a pint just for the experience.
At this point, we were nearing the end of our stay in Dublin and getting ready for our trip to Belfast (which I’ll make another post about). One of the last things we wanted to do was to visit an Art gallery and luckily there was one just up the road from our hotel. The Hugh Lane Gallery was located in London but was moved over to Dublin when the owner purchased Francis Bacon’s studio. The amazing thing about this gallery is that on top of all the amazing art pieces both classic and modern there is a huge part dedicated to Francis and his work, it includes books he owned and used, drawings and materials he used. However, the main part of it is his studio which is right in the middle of the exhibition. Surrounded by a protective room with windows at certain points, the studio shows an insight of what it was like to be Francis Bacon, I’m not familiar with his work but I generally enjoyed looking into his world and seeing where he would spend hours pouring himself into his work. For any fan of his, I think this experience would be amazing for them. Can you imagine being surrounded by your hero’s work? See where they grew as an artist and see all the tools they had control of, the tools that created their masterpieces. Even for me, someone that had no idea who he was, thoroughly enjoyed seeing everything the gallery had to offer, be it Francis Bacon’s exhibit or the rest of the gallery.
All in all, Dublin was such a magical experience for me. I have always dreamed of seeing Ireland and being in a country that always seemed to call me. I can’t wait to go back and see what else there is for me to explore, hopefully I won’t have to wait another 20 years for that to happen. My holiday was in 2 parts so I think it’s right to talk about it in 2 parts as well, Belfast deserves a whole post to itself.